By Andréa de Paiva
2 – NeuroArchitecture has an interdisciplinary character and, by incorporating elements of applied neuroscience, establishes rich interfaces with other fields of knowledge that, originally, didn’t have a broad connection with traditional architecture and urbanism. Therefore, NeuroArchitecture amplifies the field of research about the relation between constructed environments and their users, improving the comprehension of various messages that the environment transmits, including those on less conscious levels of perception.
3 - One of the greatest differences between NeuroArchitecture and Environmental Psychology is due to the contributions of neuroscience, which allow a more complete understanding of the functioning of the brain and the physiological reactions of the organism when exposed to stimuli from the environment. In this sense, it is possible to affirm that NeuroArchitecture also encompasses the field of Environmental Psychology, but goes further by involving studies on the nervous system, the endocrine system and the immune system, for instance.
4 - NeuroArchitecture can be studied in different levels, from the molecular and the celular to the level of systems and behaviors, always seeking to understand how the physical environment impacts individuals. Some exemples that illustrate the different levels of changes an organism can present in response to the environment: the liberation of chemical substances such as hormones or neurotransmitters, gene expression, brain plasticity or the alteration of mental states, perception, emotions and behaviors.
5 – NeuroArchitecture assumes that the environment has a direct influence on the most primitive patterns of brain functioning, which escape from conscious perception. The application of NeuroArchitecture consists in trying to create environments that can stimulate or inhibit some of these determined patterns, depending on the purpose of the space in question. In that sense, architects that make use of applied neuroscience can design with the explicit purpose of affecting human behaviors, even those that are beyond conscious perception and control.
6 – Neuroscience reveals various patterns of brain functioning, but people are still unique on account of the influence of genetics, culture and individual experiences. Because of that, the same environment can have distinct effects on different people. Therefore, comprehending the target public who will make use of the designed environment is fundamental for the success of the application of NeuroArchitecture.
7 – The physical environment is not the only variable that affects the functioning of the brain and behavior. Personal features, the social environment, habits and routines are examples of other variables that can also affect how individuals react to the environment. In addition, each environment has a particular function and should have characteristics which stimulate specific behaviors and activities, such as creativity, focus, learning and memorization, socialization, relaxation, respect and so on.
8 – From a practical standpoint, NeuroArchitecture can and should be used to make human action more effective and, above all, to create healthier spaces on the short and long-term. Thus, the greater principle of NeuroArchitecture should be ‘efficiency with quality of life and personal well-being’.
9 - The duration and frequency of exposure of individuals to the physical environment can impact the effects it generates on the organism, perception and behavior. In general, the longer the occupation of a specific space, the more enduring its effects tend to be. For this reason, long-term environments require more attention from architects and designers, given that they have a greater chance of generating long-lasting effects, such as plastic changes in the brain.
10 – It is fundamental to take ethic principles into consideration when designing with applied neuroscience, for built environments can influence their users without them realizing it. These ethical elements are of great relevance in all areas of applied neuroscience.
11 – The application of neuroscience in architecture or any other area must be done with caution. The brain and its mechanisms are extremely complex and the frontiers of knowledge in that field are in constant advance. If architects and designers don’t keep constantly up-to-date, using reliable sources of information, they might be led to questionable conclusions.
12 – NeuroArchitecture does not consist on the creation of specific rules which should be followed by architects when they design. It consists of a set of concepts involving different brain properties that can be impacted by certain characteristics of the environment. It’s up to the architects and urban designers to choose what, when and how to apply them.